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Books Read in 2018

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Peter May Cast Iron

This detective thriller describes investigations by the academic amateur detective Enzo. As I read the book I realised that it is the last in a series of six related mysteries. As there are frequent references to earlier stories it was not a good starting point. I had no diffficulty following the story as references to the earlier stories were accompanied by sufficient explanation for them to make sense, but it would be hard to read those earlier stories now that I know the conclusion of the sequence. However I still found Cast Iron quite exciting.

Also by Peter May: Runaway, Snakehead, Entry Island

All exciting, but I shan't bother to summarise the plots.

Kevin J. Anderson The Dark between the Stars and Blood of the Cosmos

The first two parts of a seven volume series entitled The Saga of Shadows

Books I dipped into

Leonard Susskind and George Hrabovsky Classical Mechanics The Theoretical Minimum

The authors present Classical Mechanics in a form designed to make it easy to progress to relativity and Quantum theory, so the fundamental concepts are energy, Hamiltonians, and Poisson Brackets. I had to work quite hard to get through the book, even though I was already familiar with the subject matter, though not with that way of presenting it.

Leonard Susskind and Art Friedman Quantum Mechanics The Theoretical Minimum

Although this book was quite demanding, each chapter was clear, yet the book as a whole just deepened my perplexity about Quantum Theory.

Phenomena were summarised and mathematical techniques explained, yet there was still a great gap in the overall explanation. After a careful explanation of eigen value there came a sort of proclamation: an eigenvalue represents an observable! but why?

Edward Gibbon The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

I read all six volumes many decades ago, and doubt if I'll re-read it all.

This time I started at Chapter 15 on the rise of Christianity. Gibbon was most intrigued by the importance early Christains attached to chastity. Some even took the war into Satan's camp, by seeking temptation in order to overcome it. Gibbon remarked:

"the virgins of the warm climate of Africa encountered the enemy in the closest engagement; they permitted priests and deacons to share their bed, and gloried amidst the flames in their unsullied purity. But insulted Nature sometimes vindicated her rights and this new species of martyrdom served only to introduce a new scandal into the church."

Curtis D. Macdougall Hoaxes

This book had sat on my bookshelves unread for many years.

I expected it to be easy reading, but it am finding it quite hard work. Macdougal refers to a great number of hoaxes, providing a terse summary of each. I find it quite depressing to read so many tales of human gullibility, especially when the rather clinical narrative is not relieved by many of the amusing anecdotes that usually accompany more leisurely accounts of folly.

Manfred Eigen and Rutgild Winkler Laws of the Game

Subtitled "How the principles of Nature Govern Chance". It is a 1980 translation of a book first published in German in 1975.

I had previously only skimmed through the book very quickly, seeking illumination about board games. At the time I was disappointed. I was very busy at work and had little time for serious thought about anything else. Many games are mentioned, but only to illustrate comments about scientific knowledge.

On re-reading more carefully, I realise that the authors were trying to show how random eents at the atomic and subatomic level can account for the relatively ordered patterns of events at the macroscopic level.

Andy Weir The Martian

This is the February book for the CIX online book club

It tells the story of of an astonaut marrooned on Mars after an accident, and struggling to survive for long enough to be rescued. Wier gives much technical detail which I found tedious. Reading it was rather like checking a student's GCSE coursework. Although it is mostly correct, there are some serious errors.

I usually find Science Fiction compulsive reading, even if it's not particularly well written. Not in this case however. I became so bored that I couldn't finish the book. It is very rare for me to abandon a work of fiction without finishing it.

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